How To Tackle Your Facility Management Concerns About Reopening

by Ann DiPietro on June 3, 2021
How to Plan A Safer Workplace Now And In The Future

Most organizations expect to reopen their offices soon if they haven’t already, according to the latest CBRE research.

As they plan their return, they’re reevaluating everything from company policies to office design and facility management.

Planning a safer workplace is the most popular topic on IFMA forums, roundtable discussions, and social media channels.

While no one has all the answers, we’ve amassed a small library of best practices and insights from our customers, employees, and advisory boards.

Here are five of the most common concerns about facility management companies are facing now and how to address them.

5 facility management questions every leader faces when reopening

1. Should we still require masks in our workplace?

The CDC’s most recent guidance states that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine. However, they note some individuals with a compromised immune system may not be fully protected even with a vaccine. Additionally, vaccination rates vary. In the US, only 40% of Americans had been fully vaccinated by the end of May, while 50% had received at least one shot.

This means you will likely be managing a workplace where some employees are vaccinated and others are not. If your state no longer requires masks in public places, this can be a difficult call to make. In IFMA forums, several workplace leaders shared that they are continuing to require masks because it’s not yet known whether fully vaccinated people can still transmit COVID-19 to others who are not vaccinated. Others are lifting mask mandates once they are lifted in their state.

While there are no easy answers, whether or not to require masks in the workplace is a decision you’ll need to make after careful consideration with your HR department, and potentially, your legal team.

2. Do we still need to follow social distancing recommendations?

This is another concern about facility management that depends on individuals’ vaccination status. While the CDC states that fully vaccinated people no longer need to maintain a physical distance of six feet or more from others who have been vaccinated, the same concerns remain if only about half your workforce receives a vaccine.

Many organizations have already reconfigured office space for social distancing and implemented more flexible remote work policies so fewer employees are in the office at any given time. This offers advantages beyond reducing the spread of coronavirus. It also reduces the spread of colds, seasonal flu, and other airborne illnesses while giving employees more personal space to concentrate on deep work. After more than a year of working in their own homes and avoiding close physical contact, many employees have become accustomed to having some extra space.

While you may not need to enforce strict social distancing in the workplace anymore, there’s no reason to go back to shoulder-to-shoulder seating arrangements.

3. How can we manage capacity in our workplace?

If you’re allowing employees to choose when they come into the workplace, your office occupancy could vary significantly from day to day. Aside from making it difficult to maintain physical distance, it can become a logistical challenge to ensure you have enough space for everyone and you aren’t paying to maintain a mostly empty office on other days.

Fortunately, you have several options.

You could require all employees to pre-register daily using a visitor management system so you’ll know when you are nearing your capacity limit. In addition to helping you manage occupancy, a visitor management system serves a dual purpose of ensuring everyone who comes into your building meets your requirements for safety and security. You could also use desk booking software to serve a similar same purpose, allowing employees to reserve workspaces in advance.

If you want more control over when employees come into the office, you can assign them to rotating shifts using an intelligent space planning algorithm like Space-Right™.

You could also use occupancy sensors to monitor peak utilization, average utilization, and trends over time.

4. How do we manage all the extra cleaning and sanitization?

Now is the time to rethink your standard protocol for cleaning.

The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, ISSA, offers an accreditation in partnership with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to help companies manage janitorial services amid the coronavirus outbreak.

You may want to get a representative of facilities management or your entire janitorial team trained in this or a similar program.

You will also need to update your facilities maintenance procedures to include additional measures for disinfecting the workplace. Make sure your plan includes:

  • Which areas need to be disinfected
  • What type of disinfectant is appropriate to use (and at what level of dilution)
  • The frequency for cleaning and disinfecting
  • Who will be responsible for each task
  • How you will document each area has been cleaned
  • How your team will perform deep cleaning if there is a coronavirus exposure

Cleaning every surface daily is time-consuming, especially when your office will likely be at reduced capacity.

Demand-based cleaning is a much more cost-effective solution. If you use space planning software that shows seat assignments or which workspaces have been reserved, you can prioritize your cleaning schedule accordingly.

Implementing occupancy sensors that integrate with your facility maintenance software will give you even more insight into which spaces have been occupied throughout the day.

Your maintenance team can pull daily space utilization reports to save time and money.

5. How will we handle contact tracing?

Contact tracing is the process of identifying all persons with whom an individual who is infected with a contagious illness has come into contact during the period of potential exposure and taking necessary steps to break the chain of transmission.

If you do plan to implement contact tracing in your workplace, you need to make sure you’re doing it correctly to avoid potential violations of privacy and other issues.

The CDC offers guidelines for contact tracing that can help shape your workplace policy if you choose to have one.

Just make sure you avoid these contact tracing mistakes.

How iOFFICE can help

You have a lot of facilities management considerations as you plan your return. You want to create an environment that’s safer, but also more engaging than the office your employees left over a year ago. In addition to updating cleaning protocols and upgrading air filtration systems, you may also be rethinking your entire real estate strategy.

Our facility management solutions make it easy to plan a safer workplace now and optimize for what’s next. You can easily reconfigure workspaces, manage desk and room reservations, screen visitors, and manage more efficient cleaning.

You can also take advantage of opportunities to reduce costs with flexible seating arrangements while making it easier for employees to navigate your new environment.

Learn more about our return-to-work solutions.


Ann DiPietro

Ann DiPietro is an enterprise sales executive at iOFFICE.

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